This is shaping up to be a busy and auspicious week for electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi developer Lilium. Just days after the German company hailed the success of its Phoenix 2 prototype’s first full transition flight, its boss announced a search for new funding to enable what he said would be initial production targets of 400 craft each year.
The two events mark a maturing of Lilium as it advances eVTOL development toward certification, production, and launch of its future air taxis. On Wednesday the company posted a video on social media celebrating the first successful full-speed transition of its Phoenix 2 from vertical to horizontal flight. In a letter to shareholders the same day, Lilium’s recently arrived CEO Klaus Roewe described why the sortie was so significant in the craft’s evolution toward operation.
“Transition represents the technically challenging phase (for eVTOL aircraft) between powered vertical lift and the highly efficient wing-borne lift,” the letter read. “The fact that the canard and the wing transitioned smoothly is an historic technical achievement in itself, but perhaps more important is that the transition happened precisely where the flight physics computer models predicted it would.”
“I am pushing hard (for) a production system for 400 aircraft… (a)nd if by good luck one day, we need 800 we will just duplicate it,” Roewe told the agency.
To finance those air taxi production plans, Roewe said Lilium intends to seek new sources of money beyond the current pool of eVTOL investors. Though new infusions from existing and new backers is always feasible, Roewe said the company would be exploring public funding options like research grants.
Both national governments and European Union programs provide grants and other forms of support for research and development of all kinds of tech activities. With next-generation air transport currently drawing considerable attention of authorities, it’s possible Lilium’s work could receive similar backing.
It’s unclear, however, which precise projects Lilium might seek endowments from. Also unknown is whether non-European companies similarly working on eVTOL craft for air taxi use might protest public funds flowing to Lilium as tantamount to subsidies, and thus unfair.
Given the current economic climate, however, Lilium and other eVTOL companies may be hesitant to seeking new equity for air taxi development from private partners and markets for a while.
In addition to concerns about possible recession on the horizon that have made investors wary of new commitments in most economic sectors, shares of several listed businesses in the air taxi sector have been hammered particularly hard of late amid concerns about their ability to deliver the new tech required to launch services.
Stocks of California-based Joby, for example, have lost 9.2% in value recently, and are down 46.7% over the last 12 months. Those in Lilium are being traded 73% lower than at the beginning of the year.